Lawmakers, students and members of local chapters of a gun violence prevention organization gathered Saturday afternoon in the east Las Vegas Valley to call for gun control action from the federal government.
Local groups from Moms Demand Action hosted the rally at the East Las Vegas Community Center to urge U.S. senators to pass gun control legislation because of recent mass shootings. U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., and state Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui, D-Las Vegas, also spoke to the crowd of more than 100 inside the community center.
“We’ve lost too many lives to gun violence because there has not been action by the U.S. Senate,” Horsford told reporters.
Keristee Watson, an organizer with Moms Demand Action, said there is a bipartisan movement in America for gun control laws such as background checks and “red flag” laws.
In June, Gov. Steve Sisolak signed into law Assembly Bill 291, part of which creates “red flag” laws to take guns from those deemed to be a danger to themselves or others, but Watson said she wants the federal government to follow suit.
“We want to take this moment to ask our senators, who are currently in recess, to act,” Watson said.
Three counterprotesters stood outside the building Saturday, holding a small American flag and signs calling the Moms Demand Action group a communist organization. Watson said that the Moms Demand Action group upholds the people’s right to own guns but believes “that can be a conversation with nuance.”
Even as the microphone he held gave out, Horsford voice was heard across the ballroom as he spoke passionately about the need for federal gun control.
Horsford said that it was “unconscionable and un-American” for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell not to bring a bill that would require background checks for private gun transfers.
That bill was passed in the Democratic-majority House of Representatives in February. Last week, McConnell told a Kentucky radio station that while he wants Congress to consider gun legislation in the fall, he did not want to call senators back from recess, in part because “nothing would happen.”
“I’m mad,” Horsford said Saturday. “I’m angry because we have to be coming to these events to demand action from leaders who should have the will to do what’s right.”
Jauregui said that surviving the Route 91 Harvest shooting pushed her into the gun control movement. Jauregui, who escaped the 2017 shooting physically unharmed, was the primary sponsor of AB291.
“I would drive around in my car, and I would just replay the sound of those bullets raining down on us over and over and over again,” she said, later adding, “for me, I said I’m going to turn my grief into action.”
Students speak out
Two teens — representatives from Palo Verde High School’s Student Demand Action club — also spoke to the crowd. The 17-year-olds said after the rally that school shootings pushed them to get involved with the student group, which, like Moms Demand Action, is a subset of the national Everytown for Gun Safety organization.
“I realized that it was definitely a problem in our community and it was affecting the people around me, and I felt that I just needed to do something,” said Michelle Trajtman, who started the chapter at Palo Verde last school year.
Ainslee Archibald said that students bringing guns onto campus, drills preparing students for shootings and actual school shootings in the news made her say, “I have to do something.”
“I know friends on my school campus that jump every time a door closes in the hallway because they think it’s a gunshot,” Archibald said. “It’s hard to focus on our schoolwork when we’re scared of getting shot. That’s unacceptable.”
Rallies across U.S.
Gun control advocates rallied around the country on Saturday, seeking to pressure Congress to tighten the nation’s gun laws after the recent mass shootings in Texas, Ohio and California.
Protesters in Charleston, West Virginia, carried signs that called for changing Congress if it didn’t change gun laws.
In Baltimore, activists organized a march. Demonstrators also gathered in front of City Hall in San Francisco.
The group Everytown for Gun Safety had announced it planned to hold rallies over the weekend in every state. The group is demanding a federal “red flag” bill to allow seizure of weapons in certain cases and legislation requiring background checks on all gun sales.
The Associated Press